The video footage is heart breaking. A thin, exhausted polar bear staggers across the iceless Artic ground in a fruitless search for food.

The polar bear has become a symbol of the problem the planet faces from out of control climate change since the footage went viral. The animal is a portent of things to come, a warning sign. This is what carbon emissions are doing to the world's iconic wildlife, people say.

But as we report today, it’s not just the wildlife we have to worry about. The latest scientific studies are saying that the Arctic is warming, ice is thinning and the permafrost is melting.

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This could trigger a “catastrophic runaway effect”, sea levels could rise much more than expected over the next 70 years, and over 150 million people living in coastal areas could be deluged.

In Scotland official assessments show that many homes and vital infrastructure could be flooded if reservoirs fail. Experts point out that dams will come under increased pressure as rain increases due to climate change.

These are seriously scary scenarios that we must take seriously but they don’t have to come true. Rogue US presidents aside, the world has made progress agreeing to cut climate pollution, and Scotland has been in the lead.

But now environmental groups are calling for the Scottish Government to go further and commit to cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2040 or 2050. For all our sakes, ministers should make such a commitment in the New Year.